Guilty verdict, life sentence in capital murder trial
With a bullet hole in his stomach and his friend laying motionless, 33-year-old Jose De Jesus Sanchez told jurors that he called his wife before crawling to the mortally wounded Jose Morales to see if he was still alive.
“He was still breathing a little bit and I told him to ‘wait up, wait up,” Sanches said through a translator. “The ambulance is coming.’”
But Morales would die a few moments later.
“He told me to take care of his family,” Sanchez testified.
The man on trial for the murder, Gregory Adam George, pleaded not guilty Tuesday, June 10 and is now facing the possibility of life in prison, if convicted.
George was originally indicted Oct. 6, 2011 for capital murder, but was subsequently re-indicted Dec. 20, 2012 for the first degree felony. George has been free on a personal recognizance bond since February of this year, according to courthouse staff.
The case is one of only a few on the docket in Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court that is more than three years old.
First on the stand Tuesday was Morales’ widow, Rosa Morales, who has five children with the victim and was first to call 911 that fateful evening. In broken english, Rosa spoke through a translator when she told jurors she was watching a telenovela, or Mexican soap opera when her 9-year-old son approached her frightened and told her to call the police after hearing gunshots.
“My nine year old ran to me and said mommy call 911,” she said through a translator. “I told him ‘wait because there are always shot noises.’ So then, I got the phone and ran to the back to see what was happening. When I opened the door, I saw a black man picking up a gun.”
As she watched the man briefly, Rosa said she didn’t wait long before she gathered her three children who were at the home and placed them inside a truck and called police.
“I was afraid he was coming in the house and he would kill me or kill my children,” Rosa said.
A frantic Rosa can be heard placing a call to Beaumont’s 911 as dispatchers tried to understand the panicked, Spanish-speaking woman. Jurors listened intently as the phone was eventually passed to Rosa’s english-speaking daughter, Uritza Morales.
An emotional Uritza screams at dispatchers, begging them to come to their home. Moments later, Uritza said Sanches stumbled into the home and informed the family that their father had been shot.
“He just shot my dad,” Uritza said on the 911 call.
In opening arguments, prosecutor Pat Knauth painted a picture of a hard working family torn apart by the violent end to Morales’ life. Knauth said not only was George brazen enough to approach the two men as they sat in their back yard drinking beer after a hard day’s work on Morales’ home, he said George had approached the men before hand asking for money, but was turned down by Morales. Sanchez would substantiate Knauth’s argument, saying Morales offered the man a drink.
“Jose Morales told him ‘I don’t have any money, but if you want a beer, I have a beer,” Sanchez said.
But a few moments after denying the beverage, Sanchez said it was George who returned with a black revolver, shooting Sanchez first as he sat in a chair and then turning the gun on Morales, shooting him in the back multiple times as he began to flee.
“He shot me through the back and it came out through the front,” Sanchez said, before showing jurors the scars from the bullet wound and subsequent surgeries.
As both men lay dying, Sanchez testified George began removing both men’s wallets.
“He didn’t say anything,” Sanchez said. “He just came, hit us and pulled the wallets.”
Rosa said the suspect made off with at least $900 from her husband’s wallet.
As he tried to take Sanchez’s wallet, Sanchez told jurors he threw his phone underneath a nearby table in an attempt to keep George from taking it. Incensed, George allegedly placed the gun to Sanchez’s head and pulled the trigger three times, each time allowing the empty revolver to click.
“The only reason he did not kill him is because he had already emptied his gun into Jose Morales,” Knauth said in opening arguments.
After taking at least one wallet, Sanchez said George fled.
“He pushed me and was trying to dig into my pants, but when he heard the sirens, that’s when he left,” Sanchez said through a translator.An FBI agent testified Wednesday morning, June 11 in the trial and the jury subsequently deliberated after lunch that day. Judge Stevens would excuse the jury for the day after at least two hours of deliberations. The next day, Thursday June 12, George's jury would find him guilty of murdering Morales after almost an entire day of deliberations.
According to a press release from the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, George now faces an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.